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This man, this war

So one frequent criticism of anti-war types is this: “You’re only against this war because Bush wants it.” Sometimes it’s phrased as “You wouldn’t be against this war if Clinton were fighting it,” which is nicely non-falsifiable. Either way, though, the appropriate answer is “No duh?”

It’s perfectly reasonable to be against a specific action because of the President who’s promulgating it. For example, if Bush said “I’m going to hold an overnight prayer meeting with the cast of Bend It Like Beckham,” I wouldn’t particularly think twice about it. If Clinton said the same thing I’d think it was a rather unwise move on his part.

Some people have genuine moral objections to the war that are rooted in the fact that they simply don’t trust Bush. It’s also reasonable to say “I don’t think this war is being fought for moral reasons.” That doesn’t preclude a moral outcome — deposing Saddam, for example — it just speaks to motivation. Some people think motivations matter. Some of those people would have trusted Clinton if he’d said the exact same things Bush had said. (And some wouldn’t.) That doesn’t make them inconsistent. It just means they don’t trust Bush, and they don’t think a war should be fought for immoral reasons.

This becomes particularly relevant as the US backs off predictions of WMD. As ABC reports, “Officials inside government and advisers outside told ABCNEWS the administration emphasized the danger of Saddam’s weapons to gain the legal justification for war from the United Nations and to stress the danger at home to Americans.”

Tacitus thinks that the above news vindicates nobody, but I think he’s wrong. It isn’t necessary for anti-war folks to have argued against the existence of WMD. The point is that the Bush administration used the existence of WMD to tip the scales in their arguments. “Sure, it’s true that this may cause a wave of anti-Americanism, but the threat is so damned high we have to go in.” Now we’re finding out they misled us regarding the nature of the threat, and where does that leave their argument? I have to believe that the burden of proof is on the people who want to declare war — I’m not a pacifist, but surely the default state should be peace.

Which brings us back to trust. Yes, many people objected to this war because they didn’t like Bush and more importantly, didn’t trust him. And it looks more and more as though their lack of trust has been proven accurate. It doesn’t matter so much for the country if Americans decide they don’t trust Bush, although you can bet Howard Dean is praying no WMD turns up. On the other hand, it’s gonna matter a lot to the rest of the world if Chirac and Schroder can say, a year from now, “Bush lied to you.”

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